A Handbook of Legendary and Mythological Art

Author Clara Erskine Clement Waters
Author Name Variants Clara Erskine Clement, Clara E. Clement
Publication New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1871.
Link to Text https://hdl.handle.net/2027/gri.ark:/13960/t9j41fh41
Genres Textbook, Reference, Scholarly Work
Keywords Fine Arts, Education, Philosophy & Religion, Travel
Contributing State Massachusetts
Research Notes 1871 is earliest editions; others follow
Digital Source Notes  

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Grace O’Keefe

Tulane University, December 2015

A Handbook of Legendary and Mythological Art by Clara Clement serves as a guide to biblical, religious, mythological, and historical figures and structures that can be found in art galleries and monument sites throughout Europe and the Middle East. Originally published in 1871 by Boston’s Hurd and Houghton, the book went through many editions. It is encyclopedic in its approach, offering extraordinarily detailed information on a wide range of subjects, including but not limited to art.In the book’s preface, Clement states that her primary purpose was to write something to entertain and educate her children “to whom this as well as all the labors of my life are dedicated” (iii) –a claim that seems to express the sort of modesty, motherly devotion, and selflessness expected from women of upper-class standing. Yet, Clement pursued an independent and adventuresome life, traveling extensively and publishing prolifically, while also fulfilling her roles as wife and mother (McLean). Moreover, the secondary and tertiary purposes she names in her preface –to advance her own learning and provide other interested individuals with a resource to expand their knowledge–suggest that she understood her own value as an author. The500 page “handbook”that follows demonstrates exhaustive research; basic knowledge of several languages, including Ancient Greek and Latin; and first-hand experience of locations around the globe. It provides a wealth of information concerning not just art, but also theology,mythology, and history, with a particular emphasis on religion: the majority of its pages are dedicated to a listing of all the saints and their stories. Other sections include “Christian Symbols,” “Legends of Place,” and “Ancient Myths Which Have Been Illustrated in Art.”While the content ofA Handbook of Legendary and Mythological may not be women-centric or empowering in itself, the woman behind it was certainly deserving of inclusion in the Women’s Literary Department at the 1884 New Orleans World’s Fair. The research and knowledge put into the book illustrate what a remarkable woman Clement was –a woman who seems to have truly had it all. Even today women struggle between having a career and rearing children. Clement raised five children and survived two husbands while also traveling the world and publishing multiple travel and art books, a novel, and a biography (McLean 550-51). At the age of sixty-six, on her last trip abroad, she climbed the Great Pyramid, and at the age of eighty she published her last book, Women in the Fine Arts. Women in the fine arts.

Works Cited:

McLean, Albert F. Jr.. “Waters, Clara Eskine Clement.” Notable American Women, 1607-1950, edited by Edward T. James, Janet W.James, and Paul S. Boyer, vol. 3, Harvard University Press, 1971, pp. 550-551. Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=rVLOhGt1BX0C&lpg=PP1&pg=RA2-PA550#v=onepage&q&f=false.

Waters, Clara Erskine Clement. A Handbook of Legendary and Mythological Art. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1871. Archive.org, archive.org/stream/cu31924031184082.